As a child, I was called "bossy" countless times because I always liked things to be a certain way and I liked being the leader. Although there were times I just couldn't understand why people had a problem with my assertiveness, my parents encouraged and worked with me to develop my "bossiness" and use it to be a good team player.
Having my confidence questioned became less of an issue as a teenager, until one moment a few years ago: When working as a team, my classmates and I were asked to make suggestions about team names. After sharing an idea, an older student said, "How about you stop being an ego-hungry bitch?"
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I couldn't even respond with a witty, unaffected comment because my feelings were so hurt. Really hurt. In that moment, I was that 7-year-old again, the one with bundles of enthusiasm and competitiveness who constantly got shut down with one word: bossy. It wasn't until reflecting on that moment recently that I thought, "Why did me being confident enough to share an idea make another person so butthurt?" Ever the overthinker, I went on to ponder that in society, whether it's politics, the entertainment industry, or on social media, there seems to be an uneasiness when girls are confident.
After many conversations with my peers about female confidence, the word "insecurity" came up every time. Eventually, one thing stood out to me: Society expects girls to be insecure and boys to be strong. When the opposite happens, it causes frenzy. A confident girl throws everyone off balance and an insecure boy is sometimes forced to hide his insecurities in sexism or misogyny. We teach boys that in order to be a man you have to dominate over women, so instead of being empowered by female confidence, female confidence is seen as a threat. Additionally, in a society that makes insecurity the norm for women, confident ladies also face judgement from other women.
How many times have you witnessed a girl, or even personally experienced, being called "hysterical," "emotional," or "feisty"? What about being told to "calm down" after sharing an opinion or, as Rebecca West called it, "expressing sentiments that differentiate you from a doormat"? I'm sure you have seen, if not experienced, this demeaning way in which the female voice is silenced. My friend Jasmine came up with the best analogy about this when she said that instead of being seen as powerful lionesses, women are made to feel like annoying yappy Chihuahuas — the sort that you can get to shut up after a tap on the head or being given a dog bone. Basically, being confident as a girl makes you annoying — and no one wants to be seen as annoying. So what do we do? We become shrinking violets and let others tell us what to do and how to feel.
Ironically, along with all the bashing, women are told to love themselves. But once we start to, we are put down. Although we have countless female celebrities preaching self-love and epitomizing confidence, their messages can get blurred by the thought that they do not reflect "normal" women. They are famous, successful, and, in many cases, possess the image that many are striving for. We have subconsciously accepted the idea that you have to tick certain boxes in order to be confident. The truth is, we don't. We women have every reason to be confident. We are BOSS, powerful, gorgeous, brilliant, and intelligent — and it's time to start believing that. Once we do, we can help end girl-on-girl hate and uplift one another. Female confidence is empowering for both men and women.
Like Emma Watson said in her UN HeforShe speech, "both men and women should feel free to be sensitive, both men and women should feel free to be strong." We need to create a world where female confidence and male vulnerability is a norm. I want to live in a world where little girls are encouraged to love themselves and are not shut down when they do. I also want boys understand that feeling unsure and insecure is part of being a human and hating on girls is not a solution.
More important, we need to create a world where women and men help empower one another in confidence, excellence, and love. That's the world I didn't have as a super-confident 7-year-old, but it's one I owe to all other young girl bosses out there. I want them know that being confident doesn't make you obnoxious, unfriendly, or less of a girl — it makes you badass.
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